Loot boxes are features of video games that can be found in several gaming genres, including card, shooting, sports or role-play games. Players access them through gameplay or pay for them with real-world money. These boxes are 'mystery boxes' because the actual content is unknown to the players beforehand. Loot boxes contain content of varying in-game value and usefulness – such as cosmetic items for game customization or items affecting in-game performance.
Loot boxes or other types of mystery boxes have existed for a long time in video games. While they have allowed the industry to grow massively and generate impressive innovations, they have created many controversies and also caught the attention of policy makers. Some argue that due to their random content, loot boxes blur the lines between gaming and online gambling which could be a particular issue for children and underage players. Moreover, some players are dissatisfied with loot boxes as they feel an increased need for spending real-world money on in-game purchases.
At the request of the European Parliament's Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), ConPolicy has conducted an in-depth study on loot boxes together with partner firm VVA. The aim of the study was to provide the Committee with an overview of loot boxes and other in-game purchase systems, understand the behavioral effects of loot boxes on players – with a particular interest on young consumers, to review legal actions, as well as to describe best practices and policy options.
The project consisted of a desk review of relevant literature, consultations with experts, a legal review and a survey to National organizations, regulators and rating agencies around the topic. The final report supports the Parliament's IMCO Committee in its legislative work and is available for download here.